Charity hopes to lift the 'paperweight'

By Jessica Elgot, July 14, 2011
Bayla Perrin

Bayla Perrin

When Paperweight's Bayla Perrin visits clients after they have lost a husband or wife, she immediately seeks out the red final demands from mortgage lenders, credit card companies and fuel suppliers hidden in drawers or under mattresses.

The founder of the Jewish bereavement and divorce charity endeavours to help those going through divorce or bereavement to address the practical sides of living alone, paying bills and putting their homes in order.

Although Paperweight was conceived last year as a way of helping the bereaved, its mission has expanded because of increasing demand from people whose marriages have broken down.

"It first happened to a friend of mine," Ms Perrin, 50, recalls. "She got divorced and I couldn't think of a way to help her. And my mother said to me I should ask myself what I would need help with in that position. I realised what I would be most afraid of would be addressing all the paperwork. I was right. When I called see if she needed help, she was floundering, totally bewildered."

Around two dozen volunteers from the charity operate in north-west London and Stamford Hill and Ms Perrin hopes to recruit volunteers across the country.

Fifty people have been helped and Paperweight is trying to forge links with rabbis, asking them to refer congregants in need of practical support.

Ms Perrin also runs training sessions for Chai Cancer Care volunteers.

"A typical client would be an elderly lady whose husband has passed away after many years of marriage," she explains. "She needs help sorting out insurance policies, hospital correspondence, utility bills, all of which her late husband had managed. Today, not everyone has children living nearby who are available to help pick up the pieces."

Although praising the community's bereavement services, she believes the practical aspect is often overlooked. "This section of our society is getting lost."

Even independent women were affected, having "left this kind of administration to their husbands. Paying bills, sorting out insurance is still mostly done by men. Some women I've come across don't even know how to fill the car with petrol.

"They aren't stupid - they've just never done it. We help people to work out if they are going to carry on their husband or wife's businesses, or if they are going to wind them down, and how to do that. You can't carry on life as if there were still two of you."

Last updated: 10:53am, July 14 2011